Saturday, October 31, 2015

From Blender 3D Cube To Blender 3D Chair In Less Than Ten Steps

While doing some research for my Blender 3D class that I will be teaching next March I put together something that I thought will help my new students learn how simple Blender 3D really is.  With less than ten steps I was able to transform a Blender 3D cube into a rather nice looking chair that will look good in any computer image that I need a chair for. Here's how it all progressed.

In the diagram above you can see the steps that I took to create the red chair at the lower right corner. Here is how it was all put together step by step.
1. Insert a cube in your Blender model.
2. Press Ctrl-R to add an Edge Loop at the center of the cube.  Shrink the loop by four grid squares to the approximate shape shown here.
3. Add a modifier to the adjusted shape using a Subsurface modifier.
4. Add additional Edge Loops to all of the edges of this odd shape to return it to a more refined rounded edge shape similar to the second shape in the lineup in the first image of this post.
5. Select the center top face of the shape, move it halfway downward to the center of the shape and shrink it in size so the inner an outer walls are approximately parallel with one another.
6. Add additional Edge Loops to the inner faces of the new cavity to further smooth out the shape and make a flat bottomed cavity in the part.
7. Add two more Edge Loops at the center of the shape. Select the top vertices of these Edge Loops as well as the front vertices and move them down to a level just above the seat portion of our chair.
8. Add additional Edge Loops to the bottom portion of the chair and move the center vertices at the sides and front of the chair upward just underneath the seat.
9. Adjust the face of the back of the chair to match the rear of the chair so the angle of each surface is approximately parallel with each other. Change the color of the chair to red or any color you wish using the Materials button menu.
I managed to convert the cube into a chair in about ten minutes using the steps laid out here.  It's a good start for a simple chair that could easily be further modified into something more elegant possibly using a wood grain texture to give it much more life and realism.  Just a simple little tutorial to show you what you can make in Blender 3D for your computer graphics projects.
I think my students will have a nice way to learn some of the commands for 3D modeling and see how Blender 3D can make complicated shapes just by starting out with a simple cube.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Great Schroeder Project

These past few weeks I have been working on a new project that has peaked my interest and has stretched my Blender 3D learning in the process.  While visiting some close friends of mine and discussing some of the photos that I have on my iPad I showed them the following image of Schroeder from the Peanuts cartoon strip by Charles Shulz.
My friend Kris thought this would make a great picture to have printed and hanging above my piano.  I agreed with her but after thinking about it for a day or so thought it could be made even better with the use of a light display similar to my Indian motorcycle display I had created several years ago as shown in the photo below.
This project turned out very well and so I thought about the Schroeder project further and another brainstorm occurred.  It's a great idea to light up Schroeder and his piano with a lighted display but why not also make the lights be lit in another color and also blink in a sequence like the notes are being played!

Here are a couple good examples that I came across online of this type of display using Plexiglass with more than just one colored light on separate layers.
With this is in mind I set to work using Blender 3D to create the image you see here. The Schroeder display would have Schroeder, the piano and the music staff on one layer lit with a white light.  Each of the four groups of notes would be lit using an additional four blue lights that would light the individual note groups one at a time. After some effort I was able to get the look that I was going for to achieve this image. 
The hardest part about getting the look I wanted for the Blender 3D Schroeder image and the subsequent animation that I have farther down in this post was to get the lighted panel for Schroeder and the music notes to actually look like they were on a Plexiglass panel and lit up by a  light.  This image was one of my test models that I put together in Blender and struggled with for a couple of weeks before a eureka moment happened and it all came together.
Next came the plan of action that I will need to take to actually get the project off of my work table and headed toward completion.  The diagram that you see above is how I hope to accomplish this task.  The Schroeder Plexiglass is inserted into a channel in the plexiglass mount.  This will be light my a white LED strip  in the base of the mount that is controlled by an Arduino microcontroller.  Then the remaining Notes Plexiglass panels will also be installed into their individual channels in the Plexiglass Mount and have separately controlled blue LED lights to turn the displays on an off at the correct time again using the Arduino Controller.  The Schroeder plexiglass will be constantly lit and the notes will blink on and off in a sequence. To best illustrate this I put together an animation using Blender 3D to give you the full effect.
This animation took me two weeks to put together.  Being only 30 seconds long you would think that it would have only taken a couple of hours.  Not so.  Just to render the individual frames for this animation took 72 hours to run on my computer.  This does not even include the two trial runs of the animation that I created that were not to my liking and so like anything else had to go back to the drawing board so to speak to get them the way I wanted them to look. 
So this gives you a good idea of what I want to put together in the coming weeks.... hopefully.  At least now I have a plan of action and can finally show you what I have been working on and planning for an upcoming project.  Until then enjoy the photos and the animation. Have a good day on your current project as well.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mythbuster's Adam Savage Builds A Duck Bomb!

The last couple of days I have been working on researching projects for my upcoming Blender class that I will be doing in the spring.  As is the usual case when I surf the Net I get side tracked in my work or should I say play and I come across other interesting things that peak my creative side.  This being todays post about a project created by TV show Mythbuster's Adam Savage who I am a big fan of and would dearly love to meet some day. Anyway Adam's latest project that I may play around with just for the fun of it is what he calls a "Duck Bomb".  Not at real thing that explodes but just annoying enough to wish that it would explode just so that it would all be over with just the same. 
  At the heart of the project is a dog toy named the "Squawkie Talkie".  This toy comes in various shapes such as a duck, chicken, flamingo to name a few that I have found.  It is quite a toy that in itself is interesting to see and I think a dog would love to play with.  It makes a strange sound when air is inhaled by it.  Odd thing to say but that's about the easiest way I can describe this gadget. You take the duck and squeeze all the air out of it and then let loose of it.  It then expands to it's original shape which in turn takes in air through it's mouth and makes this long drawn out annoyingly loud squawking noise.  It's hilarious to the point of being a sound you don't want to hear for hours on end and you do wish it would explode. 
  To better illustrate what Mr. Savage has put together it is simpler for me just to repost the video build of his project so that you can see for yourself what I am talking about and maybe get some ideas of your own by using this strange rubber squawking bird. 
 I thought it would be a great burglar alarm for a door.  If the door opened up, a pin could be pulled out of a container to release a duck or several ducks to sound the alarm that someone had broken in.  I think the burglar would probably take off running while having a heart attack at the same time.  A great device for pranks that's for sure.  
Here's the video so you can see what will surely become one of the next viral projects that will be taking off in makerspaces around the world in the coming months.

For more information about the "Squawkie Talkie" dog toy and where to get them here is the link on Amazon to buy them.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Blender 3D Classes Moving Forward And A Chuckle For Today

A few days ago I posted about setting up Blender 3D classes that I will be teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Platteville.  I am already amazed at the responses that I have been seeing and hearing about to this news and am happy to report the progress in getting these classes set up.  As with anything that you want or need to do it takes time and such is the case with working with the university and all they have to do to get the word out about the new classes.  When and where are the two big questions that I have answers for already.
    The classes will be held in one of the computer labs that the university already has set up and has been using for sometime now.  The big news is that the classes will be started in early February of 2016.  You may ask why not start sooner? 
  It takes time for the university to get any class set up, schedules to hold to, information about the class to be printed and distributed so perspective students can see what classes are available and the list goes on and on from there.  For me this gives me time to prepare for the introductory class that I have planned and if the response is big enough possibly an intermediate class to follow shortly after the intro class. 
   This still has not been decided but the introductory class is a start and that's what matters most. So mark your calendar for the first week in February 2016 and hopefully I will see you  in my class and I can get you started learning this great free 3D modeling software. 
  In another note while I was researching material for the introductory class today I came across this video made by my online teacher... Andrew Price.  Andrew is a young man from Australia that has taught me a great deal about using Blender 3D over the years and is my expert when I have questions that I can't find the answer to while working on a Blender modeling project.  He made this video called "Stuff Blender Users Say" a few years ago and I just had to pass it on to you just to give you a laugh. Maybe if you are able take my new class I can hopefully help you stop saying some of these things once you start learning to use this great software.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Little Cart For A Big Job

With all the projects that have been going on around the workshop over the past months this one is an easy one that saved my back and my bucks all at the same time.  I will be getting some cement work down here at home and a small retaining wall had to be removed during the process.  This was made up of cast concrete blocks that are simply stacked on top of one another to make a flower planter like the one on the right side of the photo below. 

The only problem is that each of these blocks weigh around 60 or 70 pounds each. A back breaker to move to say the least.  So this is what this project is about.

Since I did not own a toy wagon to haul the concrete blocks from one place to another nor did I wish to purchase one (Have you seen the cost of a toy wagon lately?) I built this little platform cart. 
The little cart is only 16" x 11" x 6" inches tall.  I did want to make it larger but with the scrap lumber that I had laying around in the shop this was the best I could do on short notice.  Since I also wanted to make this as cheaply as possible that also worked in my favor.  The six inch lawn mower wheels I also had sitting on a storage shelf that I used in several other temporary projects so they were pressed into service once again.
The cart was screwed together very simply by using 2 x 4 lumber to match the 11 x 16 inch 3/4 inch thick top platform and long enough wood screws to hold every thing in place.  Put this project into  even more simple description.... it's a box with wheels. 
The wheels are held on using 1/2 inch long bolts with lock nuts with nylon inserts on the inside of the cart.  I tightened these up just tight enough to hold everything in place but not so tight that the wheels would not spin freely.   To move the cart around on the ground I drilled a hole through the center of one of the ends of the cart to allow a rope to be tied to the cart so I could pull it where I wanted it to go.
Once the cart was ready it made simple work of moving these heavy blocks into my garage for storage until the concrete work is completed and they can be moved back next to my driveway to reinstall the flower planter.  It was much easier to move these blocks from the wall to the cart to the new location without having to carry them 30 feet or more by hand.  I did that the first time and nearly broke my back in the process. This little cart will serve my purpose well enough and when the job is done I'll tear it down and use the parts again on the next project if I have no further need for the little cart that handled this big job.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A New Project With A Real Learning Experience

This week at the Tinker's Workshop has brought something totally new to my little piece of the world.  I have been in contact with the University of Wisconsin in Platteville (UWP) and have been asked to put together several classes to teach Blender 3D graphics!
  I have been using Blender 3D for over 15 years now and as most of my loyal readers know I am a big fan and promoter of this great free software and have posted many of my projects that I have created using Blender.  Most currently my VW Bug project shown here that you can find more info about in older posts. 
I spoke with  Kerie Wedige who is the manager of the Community Education Program at UWP a couple of days ago and I am very excited to have the chance to start an introductory Blender 3D class  for the community.  I figure an introductory class would be a good place to start and if all goes well I would expand that to an intermediate class and possible an advanced class later on.  It all depends on the number of people that turn out just for the first class.
Work has already begun here at the shop to start laying out the ground work for the intro class.  I have to put together my teachers manual and tutorial plan.  It's in my head so that at least is a good start.  Just will have to put the hours in on this part of it over the next couple of weeks to pull it all together.  From there it will be turned over to Kerie and UWP to get the news out about the new class that should be a lot of fun for those who are interested in learning Blender 3D computer graphics. As well as some fun for me along the way as well.  
Kerie and I spoke for 2 1/2 hours  about this project and various other physical projects that I build in the workshop.  With all of this there are also plans to start a Blender class not just for adult education but grade school classes as well that the university sets up each year for the local children in Platteville and surrounding areas. 
But this is not all of the news for today.  After reviewing of my blog with Kerie it has also been decided that I will be teaching a class on how to start your own blog! WHEW!  A very exciting day to say the least.
I have my work cut out for me with this new opportunity along with a couple of other projects that are rattling around in my head or in bits and pieces already laying on my work table in the workshop.  It all looks to be a very busy schedule over the coming weeks and months that follow.  I'll keep you up to date on this latest learning experience and let you know how it all turns out.  You can then call me Professor Langkamp once I get the classes off the ground.... :)